Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Pure Soapmaking by Anne-Marie Faiola

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Pure Soapmaking
by Anne-Marie Faiola


ISBN-13: 9781612125336
Spiral-bound: 240 pages
Publisher: Storey Publishing
Released: Feb. 9, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
The pure luxury of soaps made with coconut butter, almond oil, aloe vera, oatmeal, and green tea is one of life's little pleasures. And with the help of author Anne-Marie Faiola, it's easy to make luscious, all-natural soaps right in your own kitchen.

This collection of 32 recipes ranges from simple castile bars to intricate swirls, embeds, and marbled and layered looks. Begin with a combination of skin-nourishing oils and then add blueberry puree, dandelion-infused water, almond milk, coffee grounds, mango and avocado butters, black tea, or other delicious ingredients -- and then scent your soap with pure essential oils. Step-by-step photography guides you through every stage of cold-process soapmaking.


My Review:
Pure Soapmaking is a step-by-step guide to making cold-process, natural ingredient soaps. You will be using lye to make solid soap bars. The recipes made about 9 to 20 soaps, so the book is intended for people making soaps to sell or give away rather than just personal use. She mentioned things to consider when selling your soap. These recipes don't use synthetic fragrance oils or dyes. We're told how the various oils and natural additives (for coloring, fragrance, etc.) will affect the final product.

The author started by explaining the science of soap making, safety measures, and the equipment that she recommends. This equipment will be dedicated solely to soap making. She included things like a scale and an electric mini mixer, and these are needed to do her recipes. She explained the overall steps for soap making along with tricks, tips on handling potential problems, and warnings of things to avoid. She included enough information that I felt I understood and could handle every step. There were also color photographs to illustrate these steps and the steps in the recipes.

The 32 recipes started fairly simple, but she quickly added more ingredients and steps. She showed how to create designs using layers, swirls, circles, embeds, and combinations of these. I suspect she used every ingredient that she talked about earlier. She also explained how to create your own recipes. I'd recommend this book to those interested in making "natural" solid soaps in large batches.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Wheel by Richard W Bulliet

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The Wheel:
Inventions and Reinventions
by Richard W Bulliet


ISBN-13: 9780231173384
Hadcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Released: Jan. 19, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Richard W. Bulliet focuses on three major phases in the development of the wheel and their relationship to the needs and ambitions of human society. He begins in 4000 B.C.E. with the first wheels affixed to axles. He then follows with the innovation of wheels turning independently on their axles and concludes five thousand years later with the caster, a single rotating and pivoting wheel.

Bulliet's most interesting finding is that a simple desire to move things from place to place did not drive the wheel's development. If that were the case, the wheel could have been invented at any time almost anywhere in the world. By dividing the history of this technology into three conceptual phases and focusing on the specific men, women, and societies that brought it about, Bulliet expands the social, economic, and political significance of a tool we only partially understand.


My Review:
The Wheel is about the origins and development of the three basic types of wheel: the wheelset, rotating wheel, and caster. The author explored why some cultures widely used the wheel and others didn't. What changed so that previous methods of moving things didn't satisfy their needs? Wheels weren't always the best solution out there. He pointed out (among other things) that wheeled vehicles work best on relatively level surfaces, and high-use areas become roads that then need regular maintenance.

The author looked at where early wheel use has been found, how it was used, what motivated adopting its use, and how it developed over time in different places of the world. He mainly looked at mine cars, carts, wagons, chariots, carriages, bicycles, rickshaws, cars, trains, and casters on furniture. There were nice black-and-white pictures of the different wheels and vehicles he talked about.

The book has a formal tone and is an academic look at the topic, but I had no trouble understanding the author. I found this book quite interesting, and I'd recommend it to anyone who's interested in a deeper look into the development of the wheel.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Friday, January 29, 2016

The Hood by Alison Kinney

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The Hood
by Alison Kinney


ISBN-13: 9781501307409
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
Released: Jan. 28, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
We all wear hoods. Alison Kinney explores the symbolic vibrancy of this everyday garment and political semaphore, which often protects the powerful at the expense of the powerless-with deadly results. Kinney considers medieval clerics and the Klan, anti-hoodie campaigns and the Hooded Man of Abu Ghraib, the Inquisition and the murder of Trayvon Martin, uncovering both the hooded perpetrators of violence and the hooded victims in their sights.

Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic.


My Review:
The Hood is a social history about the way we use hoods and what they have come to stand for. It's about the role hoods have played in justice and injustice and how hoods are used to define and control people.

When looking at historical uses of hoods, it was usually to point out that they didn't actually use hoods or they didn't use the hoods they're depicted as wearing in later paintings or movies. The author looked at how hoods are used to dehumanize the victims in executions, terrorism, torture, and protests. She also examined how hoods are blamed for biased behavior toward blacks or peaceful protesters.

I'd recommend this book to those interested in a closer look at relatively recent instances (Spanish Inquisition, KKK, Abu Ghraib, etc.) of injustice that involved hoods.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Truth or Truthiness by Howard Wainer

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Truth or Truthiness
by Howard Wainer


ISBN-13: 9781107130579
Hardcover: 232 pages
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Released: Dec. 1, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Happy kids do better on tests. Kids who do well on tests are happier. Our kids are over-tested. Our kids are not tested enough. Escaping from the clutches of untested 'it feels true' statements begins with one simple question: 'what is the evidence?' Howard Wainer shows how using the tools of causal inference he evaluates the evidence, or lack thereof, supporting claims in many fields, with special emphasis in education.


My Review:
Truth or Truthiness is about how to design better causal studies and better graphs. It's mainly targeted at people working in education who can influence policies about testing, tenure, and such. It's written in a very formal way and uses technical language. The author assumed the reader already knew what a "longitudinal study" and "cross-sectional study" are, for example, and that you understand words like "ancillary information," "covariates," and "legerdemain." Some words were defined, but often pages after the author first used them.

While the author was inspired by real claims or studies, many of his Case Studies used made up data to illustrate his point. He explained how to set up a random-assignment controlled experiment, which is the gold standard when possible. He then explained ways to increase the accuracy of observational studies, like gathering additional information when randomization is impossible and how to interpret the results while including missing data (from people dropping out of the study, dying, etc.). He showed how to use extrapolation, ways to deal with unexpected events, and how to create effective graphs to clearly present the information discovered in a study. He also did some ranting about current education policies (removing tenure, detecting cheating, measuring school performance, changes in the SAT, and the accuracy of subscores).

While the information about creating better studies seemed useful, I did not care for his mocking, dismissive tone. For example, he acknowledges that there may be a missing "third variable" in regards to fracking apparently causing increased earthquakes. However, since he can't think of one, there must not be one. People who have pointed out (in their own way) that it's not a certain cause-effect get mocked by the author. I happen to agree with him about fracking, but he mocks people for assuming things because "it makes sense to them." Yet when he does it, his conclusions are based solely on "logic and evidence" and everyone else is either stupid or corrupt.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Cure by Jo Marchant

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Cure
by Jo Marchant


ISBN-13: 9780385348157
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Released: Jan. 19, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Drawing on the very latest research, award-winning science writer Jo Marchant explores the vast potential of the mind's ability to heal, lays out its limitations, and explains how we can make use of the findings in our own lives.

While we accept that stress or anxiety can damage our health, the idea of "healing thoughts" was long ago hijacked by New Age gurus and spiritual healers. Recently, however, serious scientists from a range of fields have been uncovering evidence that our thoughts, emotions and beliefs can ease pain, heal wounds, fend off infection and heart disease and even slow the progression of AIDS and some cancers.

In Cure, Marchant travels the world to meet the physicians, patients and researchers on the cutting edge of this new world of medicine. We learn how meditation protects against depression and dementia, how social connections increase life expectancy and how patients who feel cared for recover from surgery faster. We meet Iraq war veterans who are using a virtual arctic world to treat their burns and children whose ADHD is kept under control with half the normal dose of medication.


My Review:
Cure is a look at the latest scientific research on how the mind can help (or hinder) our body's ability to heal. The author is a scientist and generally skeptical about alternative medicine, but she keeps an open mind. She clearly explained the studies and how this information could be used to help people. She kept my interest and was easy to follow from start to finish. I intend to read this book again, and I highly recommend it.

I've long wondered: if the placebo effect helps people and has no side effects, why haven't we used that rather than dismissed it? That's the first topic the author tackled: research into using the placebo effect. It turns out a placebo can work even if you know it's a placebo! The research explains how the placebo effect works and what things it can help with (like pain). There's also research into combining placebos with drugs to create a Pavlov effect which can reduce the amount of drugs that the person needs.

She also looked into fatigue (how the mind controls when you feel fatigue), hypnosis, virtual reality (to decrease pain), biofeedback, religion, meditation, how the words and behavior of the caregiver matter, and how strong social bonds support health. She briefly talked about research into telomere length and epigentics. Her conclusion is that the mind can play a positive role in health and that proven techniques should be used along with drugs, etc. But it's hard for techniques that decrease drug use to get funding for further studies or become accepted by doctors.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Walking the Nile by Levison Wood

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Walking the Nile
by Levison Wood


ISBN-13: 9780802124494
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Released: Jan. 5, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
The Nile, one of the world’s great rivers, has long been an object of fascination and obsession. From Alexander the Great and Nero, to Victorian adventurers David Livingstone, John Hanning Speke, and Henry Morton Stanley, the river has seduced men and led them into wild adventures. English writer, photographer, and explorer Levison Wood is just the latest. His Walking the Nile is a captivating account of a remarkable and unparalleled Nile journey.

Starting in November 2013 in a forest in Rwanda, where a modest spring spouts a trickle of clear, cold water, Wood set forth on foot, aiming to become the first person to walk the entire length of the fabled river. He followed the Nile for nine months, over 4,000 miles, through six nations—Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, the Republic of Sudan, and Egypt—to the Mediterranean coast.

Like his predecessors, Wood camped in the wild, foraged for food, and trudged through rainforest, swamp, savannah, and desert, enduring life-threatening conditions at every turn. He traversed sandstorms, flash floods, minefields, and more, becoming a local celebrity in Uganda, where a popular rap song was written about him, and a potential enemy of the state in South Sudan, where he found himself caught in a civil war and detained by the secret police. As Wood walks on, often joined by local guides who help him to navigate foreign languages and customs, Walking the Nile maps out African history and contemporary life.


My Review:
Walking the Nile describes Levison Wood's journey of walking the length of the Nile from December 2013 to August 2014. We learn about the author's walk, past explorers who walked the Nile, the history of the countries he walks through (Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan, Egypt), and the people that he encountered along his walk.

In Rwanda, we see how the genocide impacted their society. In South Sudan, Lev brings the war vividly alive with his descriptions. We meet people like a man who runs an orphanage for children whose parents died of AIDs and a Coptic Christian that was severely beaten and left for dead simply for being a Christian. Of course, there were tales about wildlife encounters, a dangerous desert crossing, difficulties in finding porters, and other difficulties, sorrows, and joys of his travels.

The story flowed well and engaged my attention from start to finish. It's worth reading simply for the information about the people and cultures Lev encountered, but it's also a tale of adventure. I'd highly recommend this book.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Mind Hacking by John Hargrave

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Mind Hacking
by John Hargrave


ISBN-13: 9781501105654
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Gallery Books
Released: Jan. 5, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Have you ever wished you could reprogram your brain, just as a hacker would a computer? In this guide to improving your mental habits, Hargrave reveals the steps that allowed him to overcome negativity and eliminate mental problems at their core.

This book lays out a simple yet comprehensive approach to help you rewire your brain and achieve healthier thought patterns for a better quality of life. It hinges on the repetitive steps of analyzing, imagining, and reprogramming. By treating your brain as a computer and mastering Hargrave’s mind hacking skills, you, too, can create a positive, permanent shift in your thinking.


My Review:
Mind Hacking is a way to re-write problem thoughts and succeed at the goals you set. There are three main steps: being aware of what you're thinking, choosing new thoughts to replace the problem thoughts, and actually replacing those thoughts. For each step, we're given simple exercises that help you achieve things like increasing your concentration. The last step also covers coming up with small, do-able steps toward your ultimate goal. These techniques are good for any goal, not just re-writing problem thoughts.

Each concept is illustrated with a number of stories and analogies. While the author sometimes refers to scientific studies, he explains the concepts in computer programming terms and in other ways so that even teens can easily understand them. In fact, I know of a teen who could really use the information in this book. I suspect the humorous, encouraging writing style will keep her engaged in the content.

I've previously read about some of these ideas and tried them, and they really do work. This book brings these ideas together and explains them on a level that most people can understand and do. I'd recommend this book to anyone ready to change their negative thoughts that keep coming back or who need advice on how to achieve their goals.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.